Looking Unto Jesus

Looking Unto Jesus


By James L. Thornton

Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In Hebrews chapter 11 the writer has been calling over the muster roll of the heroes of faith. In chapter 12 he proceeds to draw the practical lessons from their lives.

Hebrews 12:1 (KJV) “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”

The writer puts us in the arena where we are appointed to run, to wrestle, to fight, and they, the heroes he has enumerated, are like spectators in the bleachers or grandstand, filling the benches, rising tier upon tier above the sand, like a luminous cloud.

Let us imagine ourselves in the arena of life, fighting our daily battles, or lined up on the track “to run the race that is set before us.” We fight or run to the cheers of the crowd.

But no crowd ever assembled compares to those who fill that great arena to watch and cheer us on.

There is Adam and Eve the first parents.

There is Able who offer up the first acceptable sacrifice.

There is Enoch who lived before God in such a way that God took him home with Him one day.

There is Noah who saved the human race from the flood.

There is Job who lived perfectly before God.

There is Abraham who became the father of faith.

There is Isaac who submitted to being sacrificed by his father and lived to bless his sons.

There is Jacob who became the father of the Jewish race.

There is Joseph who saved the race from starvation.

There is Moses who became their deliverer and lawgiver.

There is Miriam who led the people in the song of deliverance.

There is Aaron who became the first High Priest.

There is Joshua who led in conquering the land of Cana.

There is Hur who held Moses’ arms up on the day of battle.

There is Rahab, and Gideon, and Debora, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah.

There is Samuel, and King David along with Nathan the fearless prophet.

There are Elijah and Elisha.

There is a whole row upon row of Prophets and Priests.

There are Ezra and Nehemiah who saved the Jews from extinction.

There is Matthew, Mark, Luke and Timothy, Pricilla and Aquila and Apollos.

There is Mary and Martha and Lazarus.

There is a whole row for the Apostles, with Peter having a prominent position.

There is the great apostle Paul, and Silas, and Barnabas.

There is the old preacher who baptized me many years ago.

There are many saints and ministers who have run the race before me.

There are those who helped pray me through to the Holy Ghost a lifetime ago.

There are my mother and dad, along with my mother-in-law and father-in-law.

In fact, there are thousands already in the stands cheering us on to victory.

The front rows of our church are almost empty; they were once occupied by old-time saints, now they are in the stands leaning over the balcony.

They are witnesses as well as spectators, for they testify to the power of God by which they have overcome, and they witness to the end of a faithful life.

But they are not all that look upon us, or to whom we are to look.

There on the benches sit not only the multitudinous ranks of spectators and witnesses but yonder in the most conspicuous place, high-up so he can be seen by all who run, is the Emperor!

He sees and can be seen from all parts and corners of the arena. It is the figure of a man who fought, still he stands distinct, and his brightness dims all else. Surrounded by pomp and glory, throned and exalted.

It is the same one who was on the Mount of Transfiguration, where, for a short period of time, the great lawgiver, Moses, and the chief of the prophets, Elijah, stood side by side. Then the three apostles “Lifted up their eyes, and saw no man save Jesus only.”

It is to Him the fighters and runners are to look. And what if I should tell you He once was a fighter, a runner. He was down there where you are now, struggling before He sat yonder on the throne.

Our King has been down there in the strife and the writer says, “He is the author of our faith.” “We are compassed with witnesses,” but we are “LOOKING UNTO JESUS.”

“The author of faith,” is translated,

“The prince of life,” in Acts 3:15.

And “The captain of their salvation,” in Hebrews 2:10.

Jesus Christ is the Captain of the great army in Hebrews—yet he is Commander-in-Chief. He rides at the head of the columns, leading in the fight.

Our commander rides the White Horse in Revelation 6.

Most of the great conquerors rode in front leading the charge. I have read where some had two or three horses killed from under them only to mount up on another one to lead the battle on.

“Looking unto Jesus,”

“The author of Faith.”

The main aspect which concerns the Christian fighter is to look steadfastly to Jesus, Being Himself the perfect example of the conflict and race.


With believing hearts, and thoughts,

It is possible to have a sight,

As real, As direct,

And far more reliable, Than the sight given to us by natural eyes.

Christ comes to us in an altogether unique and unparalleled experience.

The Christ, “whom having not seen (with our eyes), ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:..”  (1 Peter 1:8)

There is nothing in the whole world like that strange love that Christians have for Jesus Christ. Love, in general, needs the experience of physical sight, at some stage or other. But the love for Christ, perfectly independent of physical sight, gushes out in such exuberant streams towards a man who has been dead for almost twenty centuries, and whom none of his lovers have ever seen.

Think of the warm, solid, living grasp which Christian hands lay on the unseen hand of the Lord, and you will understand something of the uniqueness of the Christian relation to Jesus Christ.

But while the lower kind of (natural) sight fails, The higher kind (spiritual eye-sight) survives.

The Apostle says, “We see not yet all things put under Him”—that is, with the bodily eye—”but,” as he goes on to say,  we see Jesus …. crowned with glory and honour”  (Hebrews 2:8)

And that coronation of Jesus is the pledge that we, too, if we look to Him, shall one day sit among the witnesses robed in righteousness, and adorned with glory (Revelation 7:9).


Let me press upon you that this, the suffering and exalted Christ, is to be the object of our HABITUAL CONTEMPLATION.

“Looking” – more than a casual glance. Nothing great reveals itself to a hasty glance. No great book can be read in bits and pieces. No great picture can be understood or felt by the man, who runs through the art gallery and looks at a hundred in half an hour.

This modern life of ours, with its hurry and bustle, is fatal to our spiritual being unless we exercise continual watchfulness over ourselves and contemplate the deep and noble things of Christ.

SIT DOWN AND LET HIS LOVELINESS SOAK INTO YOU if you want to understand the fairest scenes of all.

Sit down in front of Jesus Christ, and take your time, and as you look you will learn that which no hasty glance, no couple of minutes in the morning before you go to work, no still more abbreviated and drowsy moments at night before you go to sleep, will ever reveal to you.

You must, “Summer and winter with Him

Ere that to you, He will seem worthy of your love.”


The word “looking” as used in our KJV is a compound expression which would be fully represented by ” Looking Off,” or “Looking Away.”

Looking away from other things that would “cloud,” or “crowd-out,” our vision of Jesus. Like a mother watching her small boy play baseball. Other boys are there playing, and much is going on, but she watches to see her son’s actions above all his fellow teammates.

The same hold true in the natural world of science, or medical field, or any other profession. No one can be an accomplished brain surgeon and concentrate on a dozen other fields of labor. They have to concentrate and give up the attempt to “intermeddle with all knowledge” if they would excel in any field.


We must put our hand to our brow, in order to shut out everything else and fix our gaze, if we would see Jesus.

LOOK AWAY from the things which would intrude, things that glare and shine, of “the things that are seen that are temporal.” You will never see Jesus as you ought to see Him if your thoughts and desires and aims are all squandered upon this fleeting present world.

A worldly Christian will see but a dim Christ. Such and nothing more is the Christ that a great many of you have seen. You have let the little things near shut out the great things “afar-off.” Many have turned his, or her, current life to the things of this present world, and there is no force left to drive the wheels of a higher life. I urge you to “LOOK AWAY” from the present if you would see Jesus.

LOOK AWAY from the “cloud of witnesses,”

LOOK AWAY from the men living and dead whose examples may, in some measure stimulate, but who have no power to reproduce in us their own likeness.

LOOK AWAY from the living. They can do much for us. Thank God for human ties, and friendships and all its sweetness. But each human soul needs more than any human soul can give. We all have too many human ties to name, both living and dead, that have helped us in our spiritual walk.

LOOK AWAY from them. The racer has to neglect the crowd, whether they roar with applause, or yell denunciation and discouragement, as he speeds past them. They cannot help us, Jesus can. LOOK AWAY from the maddening crowd, and look to Him.


No race will be run if we begin by counting up the roughness and the obstacles. There is nothing more weakening than the habit of anticipating difficulties in the course. “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

Difficulties – they are the things to be overcome. The climber who looks down will usually go down. The only safety is to look up. LOOK AWAY from the arena, and, up to the “Captain of our salvation.”


There many who are always emphasizing their disabilities, or lack of strength and the hardships they go through. They are fearful and unbelieving of the outcome. They have no confidence in themselves or even the scriptures.

You will never make yourselves strong by groaning over your weaknesses. You may get some hint as to what you should avoid and so forth, by self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28), and I am not advising against that.

Yet there are few more causes of imperfect and unprogressive Christian lives than those with the habit of always looking at ourselves, and recounting to ourselves our own failures. That is not the way to gain strength, “LOOK OFF UNTO JESUS.”


Strength for duty comes from the look. In our text Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer suggests that “Looking unto Jesus” is the principal force for “Running with patience the race that is set before us.”

LOOKING UNTO JESUS will bring to us the strength that comes from meditating on a perfect example. When we try to grasp the unseen hand in the darkness—When we try tremblingly to bow our wills and to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” THAT LOOK WILL SUSTAIN US.

We try to nerve ourselves for duty and for sacrifice, and then we try to shut out the gaudy brightness of today and make solid the vision of the future and to “endure the cross,” “despising the shame,” that look is a priceless source of inspiration and of power to us to think that Jesus Christ, in all things went before us, and did the very same.

Lives of great men all remind us – and of good men still more – how we may make our lives great and good. But they have little power to help us. Jesus Christ can help us, and his example is more than example.

“LOOKING UNTO JESUS.” That look will bring to us the strength of a continual presence with us. Our yearning hearts often ask, “Are the dead near us?” We get no answer.

But Jesus is near us, and as surely as the man who lifts his face to the sun has his face irradiated and his eyes illuminated by its brightness, so surely will Jesus Christ lift up the light of His countenance on every eye that looks to Him and make it glad.

And every “eye of faith” has the bright ray coming straight to itself through all the distant space. That look by the “eye of faith” will give strength to the race by making certain of the prize.

The “Forerunner” hath for us entered. So brethren, sisters, LOOK OFF TO JESUS.

He is our example; therefore looking to Him will give us instructions and strength.

JESUS IS THE GOAL;  therefore looking to him will be no hindrance, nor will it entangle our feet.

JESUS IS THE JUDGE;  therefore run cautiously, and “Lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us.” That we may please Him who has chosen us.

JESUS IS THE REWARD;  therefore looking to him we see what’s waiting for us. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

One day the far-off gaze, from this dim spot, will be changed for the closer vision – “For we shall see him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Then it will transform the beholder into the image of that which is beheld. And then the great promise will be fulfilled: “As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness” (Psalms 17:15).

Our Prayer, Help us, O Lord. We beseech thee, to look unto Jesus Christ in all our conflicts and struggles.

Turn away our eyes from seeing vanity. And may we, looking unto Him from the ends of the earth, be saved.



By James L. Thornton

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